Chloe Gong Grownup Epic Fantasy Debut Excerpt: Immortal Longings

A gold outline of a woman standing upon a moon against a black background

See the complete cowl under!
Picture: Will Staehle (Gallery/Saga Press)

Simply over a 12 months in the past, io9 broke the information that best-selling YA writer Chloe Gong (These Violent Delights, Our Violent Ends) could be making the leap to grownup fantasy fiction with 2023’s Immortal Longings, the primary in a brand new trilogy. Now, we’ve got the primary excerpt from the novel so that you can peruse.

Right here’s a full description of the story, a riff on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, with a setting that Gong advised io9 was impressed by Hong Kong’s historic Kowloon Walled Metropolis (learn the remainder of our interview along with her from November 2021 right here).

Yearly, 1000’s within the kingdom of Talin will flock to its capital twin cities, San-Er, the place the palace hosts a set of video games. For these assured sufficient of their means to leap between our bodies, rivals throughout San-Er struggle to the dying to win unimaginable riches.

Princess Calla Tuoleimi lurks in hiding. 5 years in the past, a bloodbath killed her mother and father and left the palace of Er empty…and he or she was the one who did it. Earlier than King Kasa’s forces in San can catch her, she plans to complete the job and produce down the monarchy. Her reclusive uncle all the time greets the victor of the video games, so if she wins, she will get her alternative eventually to kill him.

Enter Anton Makusa, an exiled aristocrat. His childhood love has lain in a coma since they had been each ousted from the palace, and he’s deep in debt making an attempt to maintain her alive. Fortunately, he’s top-of-the-line jumpers within the kingdom, flitting from physique to physique at will. His final probability at saving her is coming into the video games and profitable.

Calla finds each an surprising alliance with Anton and assist from King Kasa’s adopted son, August, who needs to fix Talin’s ills. However the three of them have very completely different objectives, at the same time as Calla and Anton’s partnership spirals into one thing all-consuming. Earlier than the video games shut, Calla should determine what she’s taking part in for—her lover or her kingdom.

You possibly can learn the complete first chapter under, however first, here’s a have a look at the novel’s stylish cowl, designed by Will Staehle:

Image for article titled Read the First Chapter of Chloe Gong's Adult Epic Fantasy Debut, Immortal Longings

Picture: Will Staehle (Gallery/Saga Press)

And at last, chapter one in all Immortal Longings!

A residing factor, when confronted with a break or harm, is compelled to heal itself. A minimize will clot with blood, trapping in an individual’s qi. A bone will clean over, knitting new threads at each cut up. And San-Er’s buildings, when an inconvenience is recognized, will rush to fix the sore, pin-pointing each fracture and hurling treatments with vigor. From the highest of the palace, all that may be seen are the stacked constructions composing the dual cities, interlocked and dependent upon each other, some connected to a neighbor from the bottom degree and others linked solely on the highest flooring. Everybody within the kingdom of Talin needs to be in its capital—in these two cities masquerading as one—and so San-Er should develop denser and better to accommodate, overlaying up its offenses and stenches with utter incoherence.

August Shenzhi tightens his grip on the balcony railing, tearing his gaze away from the horizon of rooftops. His consideration ought to be with {the marketplace} under, which bustles at excessive quantity contained in the coliseum partitions. Three generations in the past, the Palace of Union was constructed beside San’s large coliseum—or maybe it’s extra apt to say it was constructed into the coliseum, the north aspect of the elevated palace enmeshed with the coliseum’s south wall, its turrets and balconies pulling aside stone and slotting itself proper in to shut the hole. Each window on the north aspect has an ideal view of the market, however none higher than this balcony. Again when he nonetheless made public appearances, King Kasa stood right here to make his speeches. The market could be cleared out, and his topics would come to assemble in the one plot of open area inside San-Er, cheering for his or her monarch. There’s nowhere fairly just like the coliseum. San-Er itself is barely a small protrusion of land on the fringe of the dominion, its border with rural Talin marked by a towering wall, the remainder of its perimeter hemmed in by sea. But regardless of its dimension, San-Er capabilities as a world of its personal—half 1,000,000 inhabitants crammed into every sq. mile, many times. The needle-thin alleys between each constructing sag, the earthen floor all the time muddy as a result of it’s sweating with overexertion. Prostitutes and temple monks share the identical doorway; drug addicts and schoolteachers nap beneath the identical awning. It is smart that the one area protected against builders and squatters is the coliseum, beneath the vigilant eye of royalty and untouched by the determined growth urgent in on its partitions. They might raze the coliseum and construct ten—maybe twenty—new streets on the land cleared, squeeze in a whole bunch extra condominium complexes, however the palace received’t permit it, and what the palace says goes.

“Give me go away to strangle your uncle, August. I’m drained to dying of him.” Galipei Weisanna strolls into the room, his voice echoing out onto the balcony. He speaks as he all the time does: clipped, terse, trustworthy. Galipei isn’t prepared to inform a lie, but finds it of utmost precedence to be operating his mouth too, even when silence is a greater possibility. August suggestions his head again to take a look at his bodyguard, and the crown in his hair shakes unfastened, hanging lopsidedly to the left. By the sunshine of the palace, the purple gems resemble fragments of blood encircling his bleached blond curls, its place so precarious that one wayward breeze would sweep the band of metallic proper off.

“Do watch out,” August replies evenly. “Excessive treason within the throne room tends to be frowned upon.”

“So I suppose somebody should be frowning at you as effectively.”

Galipei comes to affix him upon the balcony, then nudges August’s crown again into place with a practiced familiarity. His presence is domineering, shoulders broad and posture tall, in distinction to August’s lithe sharpness. Wearing his typical darkish work garb, Galipei seems part of the evening—if the evening had been embellished with buckles and straps holding numerous weapons that wouldn’t in any other case preserve towards heavy leather-based. There’s a melodic clanking when his physique comes into contact with the gold-plated railing, his arms resting atop it to imitate August, however the sound is well misplaced to the clamor of the market under.

“Who would dare?” August asks matter-of-factly. It’s not a boast. It’s the profoundly assured method of somebody who is aware of precisely how excessive his pedestal is as a result of he hauled himself there.

Galipei makes a imprecise noise. He turns away from the partitions of the coliseum, having looked for threats and discovering nothing out of the strange. His consideration shifts towards August’s line of sight as a substitute: a baby, kicking a ball beside the closest row of market stalls.

“I heard that you simply took over preliminary group for the video games.” The kid attracts nearer and nearer to the balcony. “What are you as much as, August? Your uncle—”

August clears his throat. Although Galipei rolls his eyes, he takes the correction in stride.

“—your father, my apologies, is vexed sufficient with the entire palace as of late. If you happen to go pissing him off, he’ll disown you instantly.”

A heat, southerly breeze blows up on the balcony, swallowing August’s skeptical huff of breath. He pulls at his collar, fingers sliding towards silk, the material skinny sufficient to deliver a chill to his pores and skin. Let King Kasa push his adoption papers by a shredder. It received’t matter quickly. Maneuvering the previous few years to get the paperwork to exist was solely the primary a part of the plan. It’s nowhere close to crucial.

“Why are you right here?” August asks in return, diverting the subject. “I believed Leida summoned your assist for the evening.”

“She despatched me again. San’s border is okay.”

August doesn’t voice his instant doubt, however he does frown. Apart from the coliseum, the far fringe of San proper beside the wall is the one place inside San-Er the place civilians might need the area to assemble and make a fuss, crowding across the mounds of trash and discarded tech. It by no means lasts lengthy. The guards unfold out and break them up, after which civilians can both spend an indeterminate period of time within the palace cells or scatter again into the dense labyrinthine streets.

“Fascinating,” August says. “I don’t bear in mind the final time there weren’t riots the day earlier than the video games.”

A couple of extra steps, and the kid can be straight beneath them. She pays no consideration to her environment, weaving her ball out and in among the many customers and sellers, her skinny sneakers clomping down on the uneven floor.

“This 12 months’s video games ought to be fast work. There have been hardly any candidates who volunteered for the draw.”

By hardly, Galipei means that there have been a whole bunch versus 1000’s. The video games was a far bigger occasion, again when there have been two kings funneling their coffers into the grand prize. Kasa’s father had began them in his earlier reign, and what started as a yearly one-on-one battle to the dying finally grew to a multicontestant affair, increasing previous the coliseum and utilizing all of San-Er because the taking part in subject. As soon as, watching expert fighters tear one another aside within the area was mere leisure, one thing that was distant to the strange civilian. Now, the video games are a thrill that anybody can take part in, an answer to a kingdom simmering with complaints. Don’t fear in case your infants drop useless as a result of they’ve hollowed into starved husks, King Kasa declares. Don’t fear that your aged should sleep in cages as a result of there isn’t a extra condominium area, nor that the neon gentle from the strip membership throughout the alleyway retains you awake evening after evening. Put your title within the lottery, slaughter solely eighty-seven of your fellow residents, and be awarded with riches past your wildest goals. 

“He drew his record, then?” August says. “All eighty-eight of our fortunate par- ticipants?”

Eighty-eight, the variety of luck and prosperity! the commercial posters for the video games declare. You should register earlier than the deadline to your probability to be amongst our esteemed rivals! 

“His Majesty may be very pleased with himself. He received by the names in report time.”

August scoffs. It isn’t effectivity that had Kasa going so quick. Since August prompt an entrance payment two years in the past, the random draw has shrunk considerably. One would suppose that the worsening situations as of late imply extra are throwing of their heaps for an opportunity to win, however the folks of San-Er are solely more and more terrified that the video games are a sham, that the victor can be cheated out of the grand prize simply as the dual cities persistently cheat them out of rewards. They’re not mistaken. In any case, August did fiddle with the draw this 12 months to get one title in.

With a wince, he takes a step again from the balcony rail, releasing the stress in his neck. For less than two distinct days of the 12 months, the coliseum earlier than him is cleared out and used as the world it was initially constructed for. Immediately, it stays but a market. A compact, concentrated world of meals hawkers splashed with oil and metalworkers clanging on blades and technicians fixing up unwieldy computer systems to resell. San-Er spends every second functioning off the fumes of its final. There isn’t a different solution to survive.

“August.” A contact on his elbow. August spares a look to his aspect, assembly Galipei’s steel-silver eyes. There’s a warning in the best way he flings his prince’s title round, title and rank discarded. August doesn’t take warning; he solely smiles. That small quirk at his mouth, barely a change in his expression in any respect, and Galipei falters, stunned by the uncommon expression.

August is aware of precisely what he’s doing. Supply that temporary distraction, and when Galipei’s consideration is turned elsewhere, he decides on his subsequent transfer.

“Take my physique inside.”

Galipei’s lips half in protest. He recovers shortly from his temporary enthrallment. “Would you stop leaping like—”

However August has already left, fixing his sight onto the kid and slamming proper in, opening his new eyes with a fast snap. He has to regulate to the peak change, off-balance for a second because the folks close by jolt in shock. They know what has occurred: the flash of sunshine between jumps is unmistakable, marking the arc from outdated physique to new. Although the palace has lengthy made leaping unlawful, it’s nonetheless as frequent as a beggar swiping a rice cake from an unwatched stall. Civilians have discovered to look away, particularly when the sunshine is flashing so intently to the palace.

They only don’t count on their crown prince to be the one leaping.

August seems up on the palace. His physique has dropped like a stone, collapsed in Galipei’s arms to enter stasis. And not using a particular person’s qi, the physique is barely a vessel. However a vessel that belongs to the inheritor of the throne is an extremely beneficial possession, and when Galipei’s gaze meets August’s pitch-black eyes within the woman’s physique, he mouths what seems to be a risk to strangle him too.

August, nonetheless, is already strolling within the different route, giving Galipei no alternative however to protect his start physique ferociously, lest somebody come inside ten ft and try and invade it. In any case, it wouldn’t be laborious for him as well an intruder out. August’s qi is robust—if his physique had been doubled, he may wrestle again management from the opposite particular person simply, both forcing them to search out one other host or topic them to being misplaced. In the case of doubling different our bodies, there isn’t a vessel within the twin cities that he can not invade as lengthy they’ve come of age: twelve, possibly 13, when the gene for leaping manifests.

The issue isn’t a lot the matter of somebody utilizing his physique for pleasure or energy. It’s troublemakers who may invade with the aim of destroying his physique out of protest, making one fast throw off the sting of a constructing earlier than their prince can bounce again.

August practically collides with somebody and flinches, ducking to discover a much less crowded path by the market. The sudden assault on his senses all the time takes some getting used to: the louder noises, the brighter colours. Maybe he has dulled the senses of his start physique an excessive amount of, and that is true normalcy. When a shoe-shiner barks at him from behind a stall and holds out a number of cash, August merely reaches his small fingers out and receives them, unsure why. The kid have to be some form of errand runner. All the higher. Only a few civilians are highly effective sufficient to leap into youngsters, which makes them essentially the most trusted, darting between buildings and into each nook of San-Er with out discover.

August makes fast time exiting the coliseum, rising onto the one essential road that acts as a thoroughfare from north to south of San. He’s well- acquainted with the lefts and the rights of his byzantine metropolis too, so he steps off the principle road for the much less populated routes, hurrying beneath drooping electrical wires and barely wincing when the damp pipes overhead drip water down his neck. However the chilly moisture irritates his pores and skin after some time, and with a sigh, Au- gust enters a constructing, deciding to journey by staircase and wayward constructing pas- sages as a substitute. There isn’t sufficient on this physique to attract any conclusions about its id, although that’s a solution in and of itself. No markings or tattoos, so no allegiance to the Crescent Societies.

“Hey! Hey, cease there.”

August—ever accommodating—stops. An aged girl has referred to as out to him, the image of concern as she hovers in entrance of her condominium door, a water bucket clutched to her hip.

“The place are your mother and father?” she asks. “This space isn’t any good. The Crescent Societies have their eye on it. You’ll get your self invaded.”

“I’ve it dealt with.” From the woman’s physique, his voice comes out excessive and comfortable and candy. Solely August’s tone is simply too assured. Too regal. The lady can inform, and her expression shifts into suspicion, however August is already strolling once more. He follows the spray-painted instructions on the partitions, shifting by one other hall to enter a neighboring constructing. Low moans filter by the skinny plaster. Privately run hospitals are aplenty on this space, services crammed with unhygienic practices and soiled instruments, although they nonetheless obtain a relentless stream of sufferers as a result of they cost far lower than the right locations in Er. Half of those personal services are certainly body-trafficking schemes. Nonetheless . . . if a physique goes lacking right here and there, nobody cares sufficient to search out out why. Definitely not the palace, it doesn’t matter what August does.

He turns the nook. The environment shifts instantly, cigarette smoke permeating the low ceilings in such thickness that the dim bulbs can hardly minimize by. San is a metropolis of darkness. It’s nighttime now, however even when the solar rises, the buildings are so densely packed that the streets stay shrouded in shadow. He counts the doorways as he passes: One, two, three . . . 

He knocks on the third, his small fist simply becoming between the metallic bars of the outside door. When the second wood door opens inward, there’s a man who towers above him twice over, wanting down his nostril with a huff of air.

“We don’t have scraps—”

August jumps once more. It’s instantaneous from the surface, he is aware of, as quick as that clap of sunshine, but it surely all the time feels sluggish, like wading by a brick wall. The nearer the bounce, the thinner the wall; from the farthest away, on the absolute ten-foot restrict, it all the time seems like forging by a mile of stable stone. Those that have gotten themselves misplaced between our bodies are snagged right here, condemned to wander about this incorporeal area eternally.

When he opens his eyes, he’s staring on the little woman once more, her bright-orange eyes broad and confused. Not everybody in Talin can bounce, and even amongst these with the gene for it, many have such weak skills that they don’t danger it, in case they try and invade a physique and lose the struggle for management. However at any level, gene or no gene, a physique holding a single particular person’s qi may be invaded, particularly by somebody like August. The woman figures out shortly what will need to have occurred.

“Transfer alongside,” August instructs, closing the interior door to the playing den. The folks inside noticed the flash of sunshine, conscious that their bouncer is now occupied. Fortunately, August is anticipated.

“Your Highness!”

Although the den-keeper who runs as much as him has a unique face from the final time August was right here, he is aware of it’s the identical particular person. Our bodies may be switched, however the man’s pale purple eyes stay the identical.

“Have you ever discovered her?” August asks.

“Proper in time, you’re proper in time,” the person gushes, ignoring his query. “Include me, please, Prince August.”

August follows, cautious together with his steps. This physique is massive, muscular. He doesn’t wish to go too quick, or he may tip himself off-kilter and stumble. He closes his fists collectively and frowns, circling across the card dealings and mahjong tables with barely sufficient room to maneuver between them. His shoe crunches down on what may very well be a needle crammed with heroin. A girl at one of many tables reaches out to the touch his jacket, with no purpose besides to stroke its fantastic leather-based exterior.

“Proper by right here. The photographs ought to have completed growing by now.”

The person holds open the door, and August walks by, wanting round within the purple gentle. Skinny drying strains crisscross at his eye degree, crammed with dangling pictures in numerous shades. The person reaches as much as unclip one. His fingers tremble as he lets the road spring again, cupping the {photograph} in his palms. Earlier than he can lengthen the providing to August, nonetheless, he hesitates, eyes pinned on the image.

“One thing mistaken?”

“No. No, nothing in any respect.” The person shakes his head, erasing any look of doubt. “We scoured the data to their very roots. Not one database was left unturned. That is her, Your Highness. I promise. Your belief and sponsorship are appreciated.”

August lifts an eyebrow. It’s laborious to do on this physique. He gestures for the {photograph} as a substitute, and the person hurries to go it over. Your complete darkroom appears to carry its breath. The vents stutter to a halt.

“Effectively,” August says, “good job.”

Although the sunshine overhead runs solely in a single shade, coloring the photo- graph the mistaken hue and washing out the topic’s eyes, there isn’t a doubt. The lady within the {photograph} is stepping off the stoop of a constructing—her nostril and mouth coated with a masks, her fingers gloved in leather-based, her physique angled away in motion—however August would acknowledge her anyplace. She just isn’t the kind to desert her physique, even beneath such circumstances. She would as a substitute flaunt what she managed to maintain, residing on this metropolis for 5 lengthy years proper beneath his nostril.

“Oh, cousin,” August says to the {photograph}. “You possibly can conceal not.” Princess Calla Tuoleimi, discovered eventually.

Copyright © 2023 by Chloe Gong. From the upcoming guide IMMORTAL LONGINGS, revealed by Saga Press/Gallery Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Immortal Longings by Chloe Gong can be launched on July 25, 2023; you possibly can pre-order a replica right here.

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